What Happens If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned?
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by Alyssa Milano | 5.17.19
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What’s the story?
- A number of red states have passed - or are considering - restrictive abortion laws to “begin a long overdue effort to directly challenge Roe v. Wade.”
- The above quote comes from Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth (R), whose southern state recently passed the country's strictest abortion law. Alabama state Rep. Terri Collins (R), who sponsored the bill that makes no exceptions for rape or incest, said after its passage:
"This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn, because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection."
- Anti-abortion states hope that legal challenges to their laws make their way to the conservative-majority Supreme Court. President Donald Trump made a campaign promise to try and repeal Roe v. Wade:
“If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that will happen,” he said of overturning Roe, the basis for legal abortion in the U.S. since 1973. “And that will happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court."
- So, now that Trump has seated two conservatives - Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch - what would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned?
A shift to the states
- Without Roe, the constitutional right to obtain an abortion would be gone.
- However, ending Roe wouldn’t end abortion – or the fight over abortion – in America. Rather, a repeal of the landmark decision would shift the battle from federal to state court.
- States would need to pass regulations about when, where, and under what circumstances women could access abortions.
- As the Cincinnati Enquirer put it:
“Those on both sides of the debate say the result would be a patchwork of new laws, with some states enacting outright bans, others setting tougher restrictions, and still others maintaining the status quo.”
17 states poised to effectively ban abortion
- Four states - North and South Dakota, Mississippi, and Louisiana – have approved what are known as “trigger laws” that would ban abortion the moment SCOTUS overturns Roe.
- Ten states - whose bans on abortion were ended by Roe – would probably see those pre-Roe bans reinstated.
- Abortion would remain legal in eight states, including California and Maryland which have laws explicitly protecting the right for women to obtain an abortion.
- Forty-three states have passed limits on abortions, and six states are down to one provider.
Crossing state lines
- Overturning Roe would likely create a network were women living in states that ban abortions would have to travel hundreds of miles or more to find a clinic across state lines.
- This could give rise to more groups like Fund Texas Choice, a nonprofit that arranges and funds travel for women seeking abortions in the restrictive Lone Star State.
- However, the L.A. Times explained that “women in conservative states who couldn’t afford to travel to places where abortion was legal would be most at risk, experts in abortion law say.”
Doctors and pregnant women could be subject to criminal prosecution
- Those unable to travel for abortions could turn to doctors willing to illegally perform the procedure in their state.
- Several states have laws stating that doctors who provide abortions illegally would risk prison sentences, as could the women who obtained them.
- “Police used to go into the hospitals and emergency rooms trying to find evidence,” Leslie Reagan, author of the book “When Abortion Was a Crime”, told the Times. “They would stake out clinics and round up women as they left.… Women would be threatened, interrogated and brought into court as witnesses against their providers.”
(Photo Credit: Giraffebacon via Flickr)
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